DETROIT – The Packard Plant’s famous bridge over East Grand Boulevard in Detroit collapsed Wednesday afternoon, covering the roadway that cuts through the iconic ruin with debris.
No one was injured when the bridge fell at about 3 p.m. Detroit Police quickly moved to cordon off the street.
The Packard Plant bridge, which once housed an assembly line, featured a long-broken clock and was a recurring image in photography books about urban ruins.
It had been off-limits to tour groups in recent years amid concerns for its structural integrity. A graphic covering that depicted the bridge as it looked in the 20th century was placed over the structure in spring 2015.
Most of the Packard Plant is owned by Spanish-born developer Fernando Palazuelo, who is gradually moving forward with a site redevelopment plan.
Attorney Joe Kopietz, a spokesman for Palazuelo’s company Arte Express Detroit, said Wednesday that Palazuelo hopes to see the bridge reconstructed in the future.
Kopietz said he did not know the precise cause of the collapse, but he suspects that recent temperature swings between thawing and freezing had a role.
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One challenge going forward, he said, is that the city of Detroit still holds title to half the bridge and the building directly south of it. City officials turned down past offers by Arte Express to buy that parcel, he said, which has slowed the pace of redevelopment.
Kopietz said the initial phase of the Packard Plant’s redevelopment is focused on reopening the car company’s administration building – just north of the now-collapsed bridge – as commercial space. However, that completion date will likely change to fall 2020 rather than this year, he said.
The Albert Kahn-designed auto plant opened in 1903 and built its last Packard car in the 1950s. It lost most of its remaining industrial tenants in the 1990s, a period when the crumbling factory grounds became known for hosting lively rave parties.
The brick-and-concrete bridge was about 150 feet long and 35 feet wide. It spanned the boulevard one story above the roadway.
Inspectors from the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department and the Detroit Building Authority were on the scene after the collapse.
City officials said late Wednesday that crews from BlueStar demolition are expected to begin work Thursday morning removing the debris and separating what remains of the bridge from the buildings on either side.
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